“Last show,” said Steve Wright by way of introduction. “Bit of pressure. Got to make it a good one, everybody.” After 40 years on daytime national radio, the past 23 of those on Radio 2, the veteran DJ signed off Steve Wright in the Afternoon by delivering on his vow. He made it a good one.
Wrighty certainly put in an epic stint. Since 1999, he has presided over afternoons on Radio 2 with essentially a reboot of the programme he’d hosted on sister station Radio 1 from 1981 to 1995. I suspect that listening figures, normally around the 8m mark, crept upwards out of sheer curiosity for this final show. Would the old stager go out in a blaze of glory with a score-settling rant about BBC management?
No such luck. After all, he’s still contracted until at least the end of the year. Instead we wondered whether he would become emotional on-air. “No tension here,” Wright insisted, despite sounding uncharacteristically nervy. “Just fun, celebration and thanks to you. We‘re doing all the normal stuff because I don’t want to go to pieces. But I still might.”
Big Show business as usual, then. Factoids were facted. Non-Stop Oldies didn’t stop. Serious Jockin’ had no “g”. Wright repeatedly said there would be no self-indulgence but his audience hadn’t got the memo, sending in gushing messages of gratitude. Behind those orange-tinted specs, our host’s eyes were doubtless damp. The last two songs he played – Harden My Heart and Radio Ga Ga – hinted at his state of mind.
The recent exodus of BBC presenters, especially on Radio 2, has sparked rumblings of ageism and “going woke”. Yet it felt like time for Wright to go. Understandably, he’s sounded a little bored for the past few years. He’s half-man, half-desk by this point, partly broadcasting on autopilot.
Now 67, Wright was at pains to point out that he’s not retiring. He’s launching a podcast (more Serious Jockin'), hosting seasonal specials and his Sunday Love Songs will continue. Weekdays, however, will be strangely Wrightless. Fellow Radio 1 refugee Scott Mills takes over his slot.
There are already industry rumours that Wright will join Virgin Radio in January. His debit card expired today, he revealed, just like his show. A replacement card is probably in the post. A new contract might well be too. Rightly so. He remains a consummate, crowd-pleasing broadcaster.